Zach and I kicked off fall in the best way I know how: We headed into the woods for a little hiking trip. With thirty pounds on each of our backs, we survived (and enjoyed!) three days and thirty miles of trail. Despite being raised in the mountains, somehow I never picked up the outdoor skill of walking with lots of weight on my back to my next campsite. But when you live in the East, desperate times call for desperate measures. Wilderness requires a hike. I don't know if I would call the NJ section of the Appalachian Trail true "wilderness," but it did provide a few backcountry thrills, such as the threat of bears eating our food and the need to filter water from a spring. It also allowed me to test my hand at a whole new genre of cooking. Did you know they make powdered coconut milk and dehydrated eggs? (recipes for backcountry curry and trail pad thai coming soon)
Over at the farm, it definitely feels autumnal. There's a cadence to every season, and the chaotic buzz of summer is now a distant memory. We bid adieu to the heirloom tomatoes in the greenhouse with little fanfare to make way for a late fall/winter harvest of salad greens. The outdoor tomato vines sort of look like some sort of Halloween decoration--withered and dying and propped up by string and stakes, fruit a pale orange and unlikely to ripen before rotting. Tomatoes 'til October was our goal, and it looks like we made it. Although, I hardly want to eat them anymore. Leafy greens and sweet potatoes are more the flavor du jour these days.
In the kitchen, apple cake has been on my mind. Perhaps it was the subliminal food-blog messaging featuring Rosh Hashanah eats. I'm a little late to the party, but I finally tried my hand at it.
I used the base of this recipe, but added the bourbon and lemon zest for good measure. What resulted was an incredibly moist cake that's not too sweet but still feels like a treat. I probably wouldn't serve it at a wedding or a birthday, it's not that kind of cake. It's more of an everyday affair, essentially a lovely addition to any meal. A morsel in the morning as I wait for coffee to brew, a treat to share with the crew at lunch, a slice with vanilla ice cream for dessert. Really, is there any time of day you don't want to eat cake?
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or a hand-held electric mixer), mix sugar and oil until well combined and glossy--about 4 minutes. Add eggs and beat for another minute.
2. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. Slowly incorporate flour mixture into sugar mixture. Batter will be thick, almost like cookie dough.
3. Peel and core apples. Quarter apples, then slice each quarter into about 5 slices. Fold apples, vanilla, almond, bourbon, almonds, and lemon zest and juice into batter.
4. Prepare cake pan(s). The original recipe calls for a 9" tube pan. I used 2 pans- one shallower 9" cake pan and one very shallow 12" tart pan. A bundt pan would work as well. Whichever pan you choose, cut a piece of parchment to fit the bottom, then grease the sides and dust with flour. Pour batter into pan(s) and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (about 45-50 minutes for shallower pans, up to 1 hr 15 min for a deep pan).
Cool before removing from pan and slicing. Dust with powdered sugar, drizzle with caramel sauce, or serve warm next to vanilla ice cream.
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
- 2 cups organic cane sugar
- 3 eggs
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 large honeycrisp apples (or 3 smaller apples)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 oz. bourbon
- 1 cup chopped almonds
- 1/2 lemon, zested and juiced